October 2021

The first week of October was a busy one. On Monday Eliza Boyce, Youngstock Technician and I headed down to Dorset to weigh some youngstock. The majority of the calves we weighed were achieving good results. However some of the calves which were housed outside in huts were not achieving the same weight gains, this was mainly due to the recent cold weather and therefore some calves were using more energy to keep warm. We packed up and then travelled to our next farm just outside of Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Instead of using the digital scales, we used a weigh band as the calves were in individual pens. We supply this farm with our VITAMILK Rearer milk powder which provides a combination of skim milk and whey. Due to its formulation it's great for spring grazing systems as it ensures that calves get an abundant amount of energy and protein for growth and development.

Setting up and attending the Dairy Show

The following day I headed to Portbury to pick up some feed samples, signs, literature and other marketing merchandise for the South West Dairy Show. Together Cara Green, UK Ruminant Communications Manager and I worked with our stand contractor to set up for the show. This included laying out samples to show case our total feed portfolio. With both of our efforts we efficiently set up the marquee ready for our first event back after the pandemic.

Setting up at the dairy show

It was an early start on Wednesday however once I arrived at the showground the sun was shining. ForFarmers colleagues gathered and Katie Kogler, Sarah Whittles and I were put in charge of refreshments. The show had a great turn out and our stand was full of new faces and returning customers. We served hot drinks and bacon rolls and our Account Managers, Forage and Youngstock Specialists were busy making conversation. During my first two months of my placement I have been lucky enough to meet some of the Account Managers who cover the South however that day I got the chance to meet even more colleagues which was great. The show was really successful and it was lovely opportunity which bought the South West farming community back together.

Meeting the group Communications team

I was fortunate to attend our European communications meeting which was hosted by Ria Kneepkens, Communications Director. Colleagues from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland and the UK joined via Microsoft teams. It was nice to get together and hear an update on the ForFarmers financial results so far. We also spoke about our current and ongoing plans for 2022. We then split into groups for brainstorming sessions. It was a great meeting and it was lovely to meet lots of new faces from across Europe.

Increasing my industry knowledge

My mentor Cara Green very kindly placed me onto the Bristol Corn and Feed Trade Awareness course. On day one of the course I arrived and met the other participants. I saw a few familiar faces from ForFarmers which put me at ease because it can be quite daunting not knowing anyone. I also met other people in the agricultural industry who work for companies such as NWF, Cefetra and Mole Valley Farmers. It was fascinating that just by talking to someone you can establish common ground quickly and even have mutual friends. We all gathered into a function room and received a warm welcome from Paul Roberts who works for SugaRich. He set the scene for the following two days in regards to what talks we would be receiving and the sites we would be visiting. Furthermore he gave us an insight into SugaRich and explained how they take waste cakes, bread and biscuits that fail to meet the required standards for human food and extract the sugar components out of it so it can be used for animal feed.

We headed out on the coach after a wonderful lunch to the Royal Portbury Docks. We put on our safety gear so we could have a tour around the storage units. We walked through a huge building full of various raw materials which were stacked in mountains. The capacity they could store was unbelievable. It was fascinating to see raw materials such as soya in different formats eg. grainy and sandy looking. James Reeson gave us a great talk about the history of the port and how it has evolved over recent years, in particular the technological advancements in the industry which has made shipping raw materials more efficient and less damaging on the environment.

We hopped back on the coach and visited one of the blend sites down at the Avonmouth docks. As a group we discussed the stages of formulating a blend and the types of compound feeds which are added to make up a blend. We then returned to Clevedon Hall where we were greeted with tea and cake and given some time to check into our rooms. Our evening comprised of a talk from Mark Ryland, who gave us an overview of quality assurance schemes for feed and crops that are used for food production.

We were then all ready for some dinner, the food was amazing and we reflected on the insightful day we had experienced. A presentation from Mike Spencer was given after dinner, he spoke about ‘The Role of the Broker’ and gave us an explanation of the Bristol Corn Trade Guild.

Attending the trade awareness course

The second day of the BCFTA Trade Awareness course started with a presentation on molasses by Brian Doran who works for Prime Molasses. This company supply prime molasses from UK port terminals in key locations including Silloth in Cumbria, Liverpool and Avonmouth. Charlie Davies from Kelly Consulting then gave us an introduction into animal nutrition. Charlie explained why nutrition can vary from monogastric animals versus ruminant animals and the importance of it. What I found most interesting was that animal feeds are formulated from by-products of the human food industry, therefore animal feed companies are playing their part in society through reusing and recycling waste into a new form.

My favorite part of the whole course was our trip to the Alvis Bros farm. Everything we had learnt over the last two days came together when we saw the end product of cheese which they produce. We received an introduction to a modern, integrated farming business and dairy unit. I found the course very valuable and everything I learnt over the two days will help me move forward and develop during my placement year with ForFarmers.

Re-visiting farms

Weighing calves on farm

The month of October finished off with a routine visit to a dairy farm down in Totnes, Devon which I previously visited in September. The monthly visits are beneficial for us, the farmer and the youngstock, as it helps to monitor and track their growth rates. Eliza and I weighed three pens of dairy calves using the digital scales. The calves were rather lively that day so getting them on to the scales was a bit tricky at times.

The farmer is currently using VITAMILK Classic which is a whey-based full milk substitute that provides a balanced, highly digested fat and protein profile. The calves were successfully hitting their target growth rates and performing well. Eliza was happy with the calves progress since September when we last weighed them.

Reflecting on the past 3 months

I can't believe I've already completed three month of my placement with ForFarmers, it's flown by. The clocks have now changed and the winter nights are starting to draw in, this means colleagues across the business will been having conversations about winter diets with our customers. Futhermore with the maize harvest coming to a close, I am looking forward to getting more involved with the forage team. In particular I'd like to learn more about our range of additives, maize seed and winter crops.

Afbeelding: Josie signature 2